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Hard work has seen business blossom
A BUSINESS that has survived and blossomed through the credit crunch and ensuing recession has just passed its tenth anniversary milestone.
Moutan – named after a spectacular and sturdy peony that origi-nates from China – is a floristry business serving Odiham and Hartley Wintney, run by husband-and-wife team Julie and Jason Allen.
Talented florist Julie, recalling the start of her career, said: “I worked in London for a designer florist offering high-end floristry for celebrities – that was where I learned everything.”Among the shop’s customers were the likes of Kate Winslet, Cate Blanchett, Linda Barker and singer Suggs, from Madness.
“I really enjoyed working there. There wasn’t anything like that here in this area and so I decided to open my own London-style shop.”
Jason recalls the big opening day well – just before Christmas 2001. And the couple could not have hoped for a better reception from the local community.
“It was manic,” said Jason. “As soon as we opened, people wanted to come in, introduce themselves and offer their support – we were so busy.”
He puts part of the success of the business firmly down to the local community.
Although the business ethos of Moutan is based on quality and creativity, that does not preclude people with more modest budgets being welcomed.
The business caters for all, whether a customer wants a £2 bunch of Narcissus to an extravagant £50 bouquet.
Catering for weddings and supplying hotels such as Tylney Hall and The Elvetham are an important part of the business.
Four years ago, the couple opened their second shop in Hartley Wintney, just as the credit crunch was starting to bite.
“We did wonder if we were doing the right thing,” admitted Julie. “But I knew Hartley Wintney was a nice village and that we could replicate what we do here in Odiham.”
Clearly she was confident with what she was doing and with the products she was selling.
With both ventures, Julie and Jason, who is a also a successful freelance photographer, took on going concerns. This played a cru-cial role in securing bank funding.
“The banks could see the figures and turnover to prove that we could make the business work,” said Julie. “And both times we trans-formed the shops into something that you wouldn’t recognise from before – we put the Moutan brand on them.”
At the time of opening the shop in Hartley Wintney, Jason and Julie decided to rebrand the whole busi-ness, with a new logo, website and even branded products, including its bags and cards.
Julie said: “We just wanted to give the business a fresh look as at that stage Moutan was six years old.”
Jason added: “I think that helped the business, giving it an extra boost.
“We have never wanted to let our business go stale because we enjoy it so much and we keep investing money back into the business.”
The couple have come a long way and are grateful for the support of their staff.
Among them is Charlotte Trafford, who has been with the pair almost right from the start, working first as a Saturday girl and now manager of the shop in Hartley Wintney.
Now in its second decade, the business continues to grow, recently setting up a concession at Newlyns Farm Shop, in nearby North Warnborough.